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Nikola rival Hyliion is gearing up to go public

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Hyliion CEO Thomas Healy joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to discuss the latest innovations in the EV space as the company gears up to go public.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: But as we've been highlighting, there's been a lot of excitement around the electric vehicle space. Of course, Tesla garners a lot of that attention. Shares up nearly 600% since the March lows.

But it's not just the Elon Musk led company that's seeing a surge, even Chinese competitor, Nio, has seen investors flood into eat up shares. Nio's up about 700% since its own March lows. And more recently, a lot of buzz has been made by Nikola, as that EV newcomer went public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC, earlier in the year. And now, we have another one coming down the chute.

Austin-based EV company, Hyliion, announced it will be going public in a reverse merger plan later this year with Tortoise Acquisition company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares in Tortoise have surged nearly 300% since the deal was announced earlier in June. And unlike Tesla, which plans to sell fully electric semi trucks, Hyliion is looking to retrofit existing trucks with its e-axle hybrid bolt-on drive train. For more on that and what the company has planned, we're joined by the founder and CEO of Hyliion, Thomas Healy, joins us now.

And Thomas, I mean, talk to me about why you think that is the best strategy. I know you might have plans down the road for building your own semi trucks, but that seems to be the differentiating factor here. So what makes you want to go that way?

THOMAS HEALY: So we're a power train company, right? So what we're doing is actually focusing on the drive train of the vehicle as opposed to reinventing the entire vehicle from the ground up. Now, the benefit of this is that it's a lot quicker of a development, right? If you're designing the whole vehicle, you need to worry about the headlights, the steering wheels, the seats, all the above.

Versus for us, we're able to just focus on the powertrain, very similar to what Cummins does for the trucking industry, but then that allows us to put our powertrain in all of the existing OEM Chassis' like Freightliner and Volvo and Peterbilt, right? So we're able to work with those existing OEMs and enable them to have our electric power train in their vehicles.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and you've got that investment from automotive parts giant, Dana Inc, in terms of, I guess, helping market that technology to its slate of customers in some of those OEMs that you're talking about. But you also, I guess talk to me about the timeline too to get this out, because that's been one of the knock on some of your competitors is that the technology just takes a while to develop and actually get into market, but what are you seeing in terms of the orders that you already have from customers lining up?

THOMAS HEALY: So we've actually already started shipping some product into fleets today. So we actually have two products that we're bringing to market, the first that you mentioned before the hybrid electric solution, which is a bolt-on. We replace the rear axle of the truck with an e-axle, and you effectively make the truck like a Toyota Prius. We also have the Hypertruck ERX, which is a fully electric drive vehicle.

And on that vehicle, we actually use a onboard natural gas generator that can kick on and charge the batteries up as you're driving, so you don't have to plug it into the grid in order to recharge the batteries. So the hybrid system, already shipping that to fleet today in low volumes. It will be ramping up production next year and into 2022. And then with the Hypertruck, we'll start deliveries in '21 and then going into volume production in '22.

ZACK GUZMAN: In terms of some of your competitors commenting on that strategy, it was interesting to see Nikola CEO, Trevor Milton, commenting on Twitter about it. He said a few had asked him about your company, and he didn't believe that anything with emissions will survive regardless if it's carbon neutral. I mean, what's your take on either his comments here and why it might be the best strategy, and also, I guess, just outside of him and what he has to say. I mean, he's clearly benefited from a lot of the attention EV space has gotten right now. So, I mean, how does it all fit into why now is the right time to try this strategy you're going with and why you think he's wrong?

THOMAS HEALY: So all the efforts towards electrification are great, right? I mean, the ultimate goal by all these companies like Nikola, Tesla, ourselves is that we're trying to improve the operations of the fleet and reduce emissions. And, you know, all three of us just are taking a different approach to the same problem.

So, you know, what Tesla's doing is using an electric truck that charges off the grid. Nikola is doing an electric truck that uses hydrogen fuel cell to recharge. And what we're doing is an electric truck that uses natural gas, and specifically, renewable natural gas to recharge. And so, you know, when you look at those different solutions, what we really see is a game changer with ours is that with using renewable natural gas, you can actually have a net carbon negative emissions profile off of the vehicle.

So when you look from like a well to wheel approach, so, you know, if you think about charging a car off the grid, well, some of that electricity may come from wind and solar, but a lot of it's going to come from other sources like coal or natural gas or, you know, it depends on what area you're in. Versus, you know, so there is emissions that comes from that type of recharging of a vehicle. With our solution using RNG, renewable natural gas, it's actually a net carbon negative fuel, so in a strange way, it's actually cleaner for the environment to drive our vehicles than to not drive.